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U.S. History/Bus travel in Los Angeles 1942


I'm hoping you can help me with some historical accuracy in a novel I'm writing set in Burbank, California in 1942. The question is fairly simple. How would a passenger travelling on a local bus pay for his or her fare? Would they pay the driver as they got on? Would he issue them with a ticket? Was there a machine? If so, what would it, and the ticket, look like?
Fingers crossed.
Many thanks for your help.
Graham Rawle (London)

ANSWER: My knowledge on this topic will be rather limited but I can give you some insight.  It was common fro public busses to simply have a coin accepting slot at the front of the bus in which the customer would insert the appropriate coin (nickle, dime, or quarter) to ride the bus.  This would be done as they entered the bus.  In the southern states it was common for some bus drivers to have black riders pay their fare and then as they walked towards the back of the bus to enter through the rear doors, they would close the doors and drive off leaving black patrons short on their money and without a ride.  The only time a ticket would be issued was if the rider needed to vacate the bus after a short distance for some reason.  The bus ticket was good for a designated period of time (generally a few hours) but a bus pass, similar to a raincheck would be given with the bus driver's personalized hole punch to validate it and the time it would expire.  But otherwise no ticket was given.

Hope this helps some.

S. Anderson

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks so much for your speedy and incredibly helpful answer to my bus travel question. I hate to impinge further on your time, but I imagine you might know the answer to a few other bus travel questions.

The bus passenger in my story is a Japanese American girl in her early 20s. It is April 1942 so the Japanese Americans are being rounded up and sent to relocation centres (and subsequently on to internment camps). I know that in southern states black passengers were made to sit at the back of the bus, but would Japanese be expected to do so, given the strong anti Japanese sentiment at the time? I don't imagine there was ever an official bus company sign discriminating against Japanese, but might a particularly unsympathetic driver put up his own sign?
And finally, would passengers ding the bell to get off? If so, would that be by pulling a cord that runs the length of the bus as is the case today, (at least on the American buses I've travelled on)?

Thanks again for your help.

Graham Rawle

I am not aware of signs that officially segregated bus lines in the United States for Japanese-Americans.  As you mentioned there could have been rogue bus drivers with a particular vendetta against Japanese-Americans that wouldn't allow them to ride but I am unaware of any official bus-line polices directed at Japanese-Americans as there were for Africa-Americans.  Of course many privately-owned businesses had signs that read, "No Japs Here EVER" but the buses I don't know of any.

Concerning dinging the bell to get off.  Yes, it has been the same for a LONG time.  Generally riders would ding the bell as they approached their destination.  The drivers would then stop at the next regularly-scheduled bus stop.  They would not stop just anywhere the bell was rung.  Riders had to be aware of which stop was nearest BEFORE their intended destination, for if they waited too long they might see their location wiz past and have to wait for several more blocks for the next regular stop.

Remember the internment camps began on February 19, 1942 and after that the Japanese-Americans were fair game on the west coast and as far west as Arkansas.

Good luck on your work.

S. Anderson

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Steve Anderson, MA


Any area of American History, EXCEPT military history or economic history, these are not strong points of mine. Areas of particular expertise include the assassination of John F. Kennedy, 19th century women's history, 1950s-1960s popular culture, 1920s, Colonial America, Jacksonian Era, migration west, immigration, ethnic history, presidential decisions, treaties, tariffs, causes and results of wars, and entertainment history since World War II (television, movies, and music.)


Twenty-five years of teaching Advanced Placement American History, Bachelor's and Master's Degrees in American History, thirty post-graduate hours in American History

Member of Phi Alpha Theta--The History Honor Society (November 2001), California Teacher's Association

American History Teaching Credential, Recognized by the University of Chicago as an Outstanding Educator

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